Growing up in Disneyland – Reminiscing a simpler time
By Carin R. Kirkegaard; photos courtesy of Ron DeFore
Since its opening in 1955, Disneyland has been a destination vacation for many families across the globe. There are entire books, blogs, social media pages and travel agencies that have pointers on which hotels to stay in, which restaurants to secure a reservation at and where to find secret magical encounters throughout the park. For some, Disneyland is simply a family vacation to an amusement park, but for others it’s a lifestyle.
Ron DeFore’s 2019 book Growing up in Disneyland, is a biography of 1950s and 1960s television actor and friend to Walt Disney, Don DeFore, an autobiography of Ron’s life, and a nostalgic look at a simpler time told through a Disneyland lens.
“Growing up in Disneyland is a metaphor for my life – growing up in a celebrity family filled with Fantasyland adventures – and surviving!” exclaimed DeFore. “I’m among the few celebrity kids who survived the celebrity wealth of Hollywood. My parents raised us kids quite differently than many other celebrity neighbors,” he continued.
The first section of the book details Don DeFore’s celebrity career – highlighting his best known television roles as Thorny in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and his co-starring role as Mr. B. in Hazel. The author includes many excerpts from his father’s unpublished memoirs that transport the reader back in time to 1950s California.
Throughout the book, DeFore weaves in stories where the family crosses paths with many celebrities. From Judy Garland being the matron of honor at his parents’ wedding, to meeting The Beatles at a private fundraiser, to the friendship his father had with Walt Disney – these anecdotes add detail to a family’s life story that, at times, reads like a script for its own television series.
For those readers looking to broaden their knowledge of Disneyland, the book devotes three chapters to the DeFores’ place in the park’s history. The title of the book is not only a metaphor, the author and his brother (see related story page 31) and sisters literally grew up with the park as their playground.
The Disney chapters in the book are sprinkled with stories of the kids getting to cut to the front of lines for rides, being the test subjects of new rides, and getting to ride in the opening day parade. Their father owned a restaurant located on the property, and items from the restaurant are some of the most sought after memorabilia for Disneyland collectors to this day.
The book weaves an enchanting story and pays tribute to DeFore’s parents and the life they provided for their children – reminiscent of a simpler time.